Read a company balance sheet and you get a good idea of its current and long-term assets, inventory and cash flows. You get almost no idea of its most important assets - brand, people, customer relationships and data, the real assets that define a company and its competitive edge.
The current economic climate sharpens the focus on working every part of a busines hard, including its data, maximising its potential to reduce churn and reactivate lapsed customers. Marketers are doubtless quoting those well known facts that retention is five, six, seven or 13 times cheaper than acquiring new customers, depending on the industry or the article they’re reading!)
The good news is marketers do seem to be getting more data savvy and accept the need to apply suppressions to mailings. They understand the benefits of reducing waste, brand protection and complying with legislation. To a marketer, data management is just that – applying suppressions job-by-job.
Data management has much more to offer, however. It’s about a proactive and planned method for capturing, storing, manipulating enhancing and then employing data productively. It’s about establishing processes and resources that ensure data is maintained, continuously improved and that the cost of improvements is spread-out across an annual budget, not big-hits that have to be sanctioned by marketing campaign managers. Data management is about setting benchmarks and reporting on them, so that data assets can be measured and fixes prioritised against known benefits.
A data management project should start with an audit of the most useful and relevant data variables, with each variable investigated to understand what values are contained, how that piece of data is received and used by each business function. From this, tangible value can be added to the data variable by expressing its benefits to the company.
The next step is to design a set of rules that govern that data variable and keep it clean and fit for purpose. Rules can consist of how that data item is captured, how it’s stored, how long it’s been held and how it can be enhanced, thus providing the business with a clearly-defined process. The project can then be completed by simply implementing these rules, setting targets and applying fixes when the targets are met (or missed). Before doing this, ensure that business managers agree to the standards being discussed.
Regardless of industry, we all face similar challenges with our data and with securing resource and budget to manage data proactively. It’s a case of convincing the wider business that data is tangible, that it drives business value and it can be managed clearly to a set of measurable objectives that seek to lay and build upon good foundations – it is more than just applying suppressions!
If your company has invested heavily in a database, CRM solution or single-customer view, data is the oil lubricating the engine and, as my grandad use to say, that is the cheapest mechanic! Well-managed data might not find its way onto a company balance sheet, but the enhance sales and reduced costs it produces most certainly will.